Zoe Saldana talks Nina Simone pic, sci-fi, and Hollywood

ZoeTHRIt’s been a pretty big year for Zoe Saldana. Earlier this year she starred in a remake of Rosemary’s Baby and has a lead role in the blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy (which she was great in!). She also graced the cover of The Hollywood Reporter this month and in the interview she addressed the controversy surrounding her Nina Simone film, along with growing up being into sci-fi and race issues in Hollywood.

And now you’re headlining in three simultaneous giant sci-fi franchises — Guardians of the Galaxy,Star Trek and Avatar. How did that end up happening?

You just gravitate naturally to what your heart yearns for. And I grew up in a very science fiction-driven household. It was odd for me to grow up and go out in the world and not see other women going crazy for science fiction …

Wait a second. You’re saying that as a kid you’d come home from school, make yourself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and turn on the TV to watch Star Trek?

Well, not Star Trek. That was too old for me. But I watched Terminator, Aliens, The Hunger, supernatural thrillers, I’m one of the only people who loved Dune. The casting was superb. Not every actor can do a David Lynch movie.

Like the Nina Simone biopic coming out later this year. You’ve been blue and you’ve been green, but ironically the movie that generated the most controversy is the one in which you’re brown. There was criticism that you were too light-skinned to play Simone.

You have to try to understand where people are coming from. This has always been an issue in our society. A white person can play Cleopatra, even though Cleopatra was a North African woman who in reality had coffee skin. But that’s not sellable in Hollywood. So you get Elizabeth Taylor with purple eyes. So there’s always been a lot of tension in the African-American community about Hollywood being a whitewashing machine. But that wasn’t the case with Nina. There were so many other variables that people don’t know about. I wasn’t the first person to step up to the plate. They went out to everybody for the part. There were other people attached for years [like Mary J. Blige]. And they just decided not to do it. And at the end of the day, we had to tell this story. It’s our duty to go out and tell stories about women and about people of color because we don’t do that enough.

Race doesn’t seem to matter as much in sci-fi.

You know why? Because the people we discriminate against in sci-fi movies are the aliens. We make them the villains. We have to make somebody bad.

Zoe also talk about her horrible experience on working on the first Pirates of the Caribbean film and how her mother even confuses her with Thandie Newton. Check out the full story here.

About the author

Quibian Salazar-Moreno is co-founder of The Hollywood Shuffle. He's an experienced entertainment journalist based in Los Angeles, by way of Denver, Colorado.